Senior pupils from St Joseph’s and Grange Academies have received Saltire Awards in recognition of their volunteer work with New Farm Loch Community Council.
The Community Council, which started an anti sectarian project back in January 2015 with funding from the Voluntary Action Fund, held the celebration event to recognise the achievements of the young people.
John Houston, Youth Initiative Organiser from the Community Council, worked with Vibrant Communities and the schools to identify nine pupils who would be interested in taking part in this worthwhile project.
The pupils, with four teachers and a youth leader, travelled to Northern Ireland where they toured Belfast and met a variety of people including the mediation Northern Ireland offices and local peace groups.
The group stayed at Corrymeela Peace Camp for the weekend and participated in workshops with two local facilitators learning about transition and change and how people from different backgrounds can live and work together.
This was just the beginning for the pupils. Since returning from Northern Ireland, the young people became involved in peer education within their schools, local youth groups and faith groups. They have shown great maturity by presenting their experiences at large scale events including an event at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
The young people also trained the next group of eight pupils who visited Northern Ireland earlier this year.
This team of young people have delivered presentations and workshops to their peers and to local Syrian refugee families.
They also helped to organise a Celebrate Diversity music festival in aid of local refugee families where they raised £640.
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing joined Provost Jim Todd to present the young people with their awards.
Eve Hamill, Shanyn Boax, Morven Campbell and Valentina Gagliardi from St Joseph’s Academy and Kirsten Macdonald, Rachel Nicholson, Izzy Faure and Kaolina Myszkowska from Grange Academy all achieved the Saltire Summit Award, presented for an outstanding contribution to volunteering.
Billie Andrew from St Joseph’s achieved a Saltire Award for 200 hours volunteering.
While Katie Cameron, Isla Grant, Emma King and Gabrielle Maberly from St Joseph’s Academy and Jamie McCafferty, Kailin Walker, Sophie Ward and Nicola Sherry from Grange Academy all achieved the Saltire Award.
Annabelle Ewing said: “I was thrilled to present the young people with their Saltire and Summit awards for their volunteering work. I was impressed with the dedication the energy, enthusiasm, ideas and commitment of the young people with the New Farm Loch Community Council.
“It is so heartening for me to see young people empowered and prepared to volunteer within their whole community to bring people together and celebrate the differences that we have.
“They have through their own efforts, hard work and determination become leaders in their communities. What inspiring young women!
“We fully support the aims of the In Wi’ The Mix Partnership project – promoting positive work on tackling sectarianism in our communities.
“The Scottish Government believes that everyone deserves to live in a Scotland free form discrimination and exclusion. We have therefore been supporting a community-based approach to tackling sectarianism, an approach that was welcomed and encouraged by the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland.
“Our financial investment of £12.5 million since 2012 has stimulated a huge range of work tackling sectarianism in communities across Scotland and the strong focus on sustainability has ensured that much of this work will continue to be embedded in communities.
“With more activities already planned or in the pipeline, the work of everyone involved, in setting good, positive examples of community spirit and showing that prejudices, whether new or old have no place in this or any other community. Well done to everyone involved.”
Provost Todd said: “I was delighted to attend the community council’s prize giving ceremony and personally congratulate the young people. They have been a credit to their schools and to East Ayrshire as a whole.
“This successful project, organised by John Houston, is growing all the time. The young people are spreading the word about tolerance and respect within East Ayrshire and beyond. That was evident from the large numbers of people who came to the prize giving to congratulate the young people.
“There were representatives from local faith groups and the community. Our MP, Alan Brown was also in attendance along with MSP’s Willie Coffey and Brian Whittle.
“John and the community council are to be congratulated for creating a project which is proving to be so successful.”
The project was made possible by funding from In Wi’ the Mix, the Scottish Government and East Ayrshire Council.